Hello! It's time for Writer Wednesday, when I discuss another author and his or her book. Today's book is The Real Saint Nicholas: Tales of Generosity and Hope from Around the World by Louise Carus.
Santa is a popular part of Christmas. Just look in any mall, in several classic Christmas movies or on a street corner. He is known by many names around the world. He's been depicted as a mouse, a bear, a short jolly man, and a man that shook like a bowlful of jelly. Long before his address was at the North Pole, though, he wore the robes of red and white of a bishop and was the real Nicholas in present-day Turkey. Later, he became a saint. In this fascinating book, tales are gathered from across the centuries, including some of the earliest tales of St. Nicholas up through the twentieth century, and across cultures and countries. The book is divided into the areas of Gifts of Life and Freedom, A Friend for the Journey, Bread and Cookies, Tricks and Transformations, and Healing Body and Spirit.
If you love Christmas or are interested in tales from many cultures and places, then this is sure to be a book that you'll enjoy!
On today's top ten Tuesday, the theme is top ten books I've read this year. I'm going to restrict this to top ten books that I read for the first time this year and even that is difficult to do! I'm also not including books that are primarily photographs.
The War that Ended Peace by Margaret MacMillan
Why I liked it: History and historical international relations is my background in academics. I loved Paris 1919 and knew that I had to read this. It's fascinating to discover the decisions and events of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, that led away from peace, toward escalated tensions and ultimately war, especially now that it is the centenary of the beginning of WWI.
A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor
Why I liked it: I loved the British Museum when I went and told my husband that I could camp out there for about a month just exploring everything. This book takes 100 objects from the British Museum collections and explains the history of the world, across cultures and geography.
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards
Why I liked it: Art is one of my interests. Typically, a left brained activity, it was very interesting to learn the science behind the mind and to approach drawing from a new angle. By practicing new exercises, I do feel that I made advances in my drawing. A new way to learn about something is always exciting- especially when it works!
A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson
Why I liked it: Motivation is something of interest to me, as a person, but also an author. It is essential to create believable characters. Life and actions are motivated by fear or by love. All choices stem from which direction we're moving toward and what are motivation is: fear or love. The goal is returning to what is true: love.
Washington by Ron Chernow
Why I liked it: This was the longest book I read this year (at over 900 pages) and details Washington's life from his birth through his entire life. Washington leaps from the page, a full-bodied character- complex and interesting, a man of his times and an enduring legend in ours.
Juliet by Anne Fortier
Why I liked it: This is the kind of story I like to read and to write- a beckoning of the past intermingling with characters of another age. Mystery, intrigue, suspense, and inspiration from Shakespeare all interact with a timeless tale of love: Romeo and Juliet.
An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris
Why I liked it: This is a fictional account of The Dreyfus Affair and the anti-Semitism that surged through France in the late nineteenth century. It is told from the point of view of the commanding officer that was responsible for condemning Dreyfus and then the change of heart in the aftermath and the secrets that he unravels.
How to be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman
Why I liked it: This is a practical guide of all components of Victorian life, especially for the middle and lower classes. Schooling, clothing, food, work, even dreaded wash day- it's all included. This has become research for some of my writing this year.
The Story of the Jews by Simon Schama
Why I liked it: As mentioned above, history and historical international relations is my academic background. I find it really interesting when history shows the overlaps and interactions of various groups of peoples. This is what is accomplished in this book- how the Jews affected and were affected by the different geographies and people of over 2000 years from 1000 BCE to 1492 CE.
The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
Why I liked it: I'm becoming a Ray Bradbury fan. Last year I read my first Bradbury: Something Wicked this Way Comes. So this year I read The Halloween Tree. I then read his short story collection: The Illustrated Man and Fahrenheit 451 is high on my list to read soon. The Halloween Tree tells the story of Halloween through time, spanning cultures and continents.
Bonus- The magazine that I read National Geographic
Why I like it: History, science, art, culture, and more. This is the magazine that I read and look forward to it arriving each month in the mailbox!
It's time for Writer Wednesday, when I discuss another author and his or her book. Today's feature is The Story of the Jews: Finding the Words, 1000BCE -1492CE by Simon Schama.
Hanukkah begins next week and celebrates the miraculous longevity of oil, a fundamental component of life, especially in a time before electricity.
Words too empower life and are essential to our livelihoods. Within this book, Schama examines not just the enduring Jewish population, but the longevity of their words as well. Against persecution and obstacles at times, this is somewhat of a miracle in itself.
Schama also though illustrates a story beyond common knowledge, one that challenges assumption. There were populations of Jews who mixed peacefully with Arab neighbors for centuries. There were mosaics in some Jewish synagogues depicting animals and even people. Both Christianity and Islam interacted with Judaism-- at times at odds, yes, but also learning customs from each other that influenced practice. Did you know that the separation of Jewish men and women in the temple was not an ancient custom but only came about later? Did you know that much of Westminster Abbey was financed by a Jewish family whose wealth was confiscated upon their deaths? Within these pages are many little known or even unknown stories, spanning over two thousand years of Jewish history. As Schama illustrates, though, this history includes the Middle East, Africa, Europe and every major religion of the time. Therefore, Schama insists, and I am inclined to agree, that the Jewish story is a human story, of all of our histories- in its rich interplay of culture and time.
From a literary perspective, this book is also fascinating because it is the story of the words of the Jewish faith, the writing of the Talmud and the Mishna, what influenced their creations and how the surrounding cultures accepted or rejected their ideas.
In this holiday season, where all observant hearts are more inclined toward peace, it is important that the stories of the past be told, so that a greater understanding can be achieved. Simon Schama's book contributes to that cause.